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Recognizing the value of others

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Ashley Williams questions whether the University community understands what sensitivity and tolerance mean after hearing a joke about Rosa Parks at the Student Comedy Club and seeing a pair of Halloween party-goers dressed as Hurricane Katrina complete with a “victim,” described in her letter in the Oct. 31 issue of The Observer, “Understanding sensitivity and tolerance.”

As if her examples are not enough, The Observer itself drives the point home in the very same issue with a “Jocular” comic strip that stoops to a new low, insulting women, nurses, waitresses, Helen Keller, people with disabilities and men all at the same time, in other words, insulting all of humanity in one fell swoop.

The portraits of women in their “slutty” Halloween costumes present women essentially as “sex toys” for men through their dress, their speech and their professions, offering a crude inversion of traditional service professions into yet another form of service, “sexual servicing.”

In addition, the third portrait outrageously takes the figure of Helen Keller, a model of courage and true vision for humanity, and presents her physical challenges as an offer for sexual manipulation. Finally, these portraits of women are demeaning to men, suggesting that their sex organs are the center of their lives and happiness. Such portraits insult the many men and women in our community who defy cultural pressures which define men as their sex organs and women as instruments for the pleasure of said organs, but instead dare to see one another as people of great dignity and worthy, to see one another as children of God.

Fortunately, on the front page of the very same issue of The Observer, there are three examples of such people who recognize the value of others. One story tells of students keeping alive the memory of Mara Fox, a student killed by a drunk driver in 1993, offering continued healing to her family and raising money for a scholarship fund through Lyons Hall’s weekend run (“Run commemorates, raises funds”). Another explains that students have been raking leaves for elderly neighbors, taking the time to knock on their doors and to say hello and visit with them (“Students turn over a new leaf with raking”). And a third story, about remarkable women at Saint Mary’s who are writing to death row inmates as part of a project for their course on Catholic Social Thought, describes how the students are learning to see their pen pals as people with dignity regardless of their actions (“Class links students, inmates”).

These three portraits of real-life examples of women and men who set aside stereotypes and selfish desires in order to reach out to others in love and compassion, move us forward from the terrors of Halloween to the hope of All Saints’ Day, providing a model of the Beatitudes in action. Happy are they, blessed are they, holy are they.

Kimberly Bakergraduate studentoff-campusOct. 31